Moles are one of the common-but-unwelcome visitors to our lawns and gardens. These sluggish little mammals can damage your property by digging tunnels under the ground to create burrows and hunt for food. One can easily recognize their presence through the conical piles of soil that are pushed to the ground’s surface as a result of this digging.
Cats, too, can discern their presence, thanks to their heightened senses and inquisitive nature. And this might lead you to wonder – do cats catch moles?
The short answer is yes, cats do catch moles! Some might even eat them, while others only hunt them for the fun of it. Continue reading to learn more about your cat’s hunting behavior and why they find moles attractive prey.
Facts about your cat’s hunting behavior
We have all seen adorable viral videos of cats sleeping peacefully on top of bookshelves, flushing the toilet, cuddling with their owners, or even mewing melodiously while following their humans to the bathroom. There is no denying that our furry felines are truly beautiful and lovable. But did you know that cats are actually among the most lethal predators?
Just like their wild feline relatives, cats are born with the instinct to hunt. It is deeply ingrained in their DNA. Even domesticated felines might still display their predatory drive when they chase, pounce on, and bite their toys. These hunting skills are naturally learned from their mothers for survival purposes and, throughout their life, will continue to be honed.
But are domesticated cats not well-fed? Why would they still hunt and kill small animals?
Well, while survival is the primary reason to hunt, most cats have retained this instinct for several other reasons, too:
- Cats are opportunistic hunters and, as such, will generally chase smaller animals they consider prey, whether they are hungry or not. Both domesticated and feral cats engage in such predatory behavior; however, hunting tends to be more prevalent among feral and stray cats to prevent starvation.
- Some domesticated cats hunt for entertainment. Most of our furry companions enjoy the thrill of catching a mouse, pawing and playing with the poor creature until it is dead. In some cases, they might even present their catch as a gift to their favorite humans.
- Cats that are regularly fed poor-quality food might hunt to satisfy their nutritional needs. Some humans forget that their whiskered companions are carnivores. In the wild, the meat from their prey is high in protein to satiate their appetite and keep them nourished. Low-quality commercial cat foods, on the other hand, might not provide them with the same amount of protein as their natural food source.
- Well-fed cats can sometimes become bored with their regular cat food. As such, they might resort to hunting, especially those that are allowed to freely roam outdoors, to satisfy their desire for a varied diet.
Due to their excellent hunting skills, cats are sometimes deployed in barns to help control the rodent population. For decades, they were intentionally bred for this sole purpose – to deter rodents and other smaller animals that might otherwise cause great damage on farms and properties.
Despite the availability of modern solutions to eradicate the rat population, some cat enthusiasts might still resort to this traditional method. However, relying on cats alone might not be enough to manage these destructive pests.
Do cats catch moles?
Cats tend to prey on a wide range of small animals, according to their availability. Aside from rodents, they might also take interest in other small prey like moles.
Contrary to what many people might believe, moles are not rodents. These are small mammals that spend their lives underground and feed on insects and worms. And, while they do not have any interest in feasting on your precious crops, moles might rip up your garden and cause extensive damage in search of food.
Fortunately, if you have cats that are allowed to roam freely around your property, they can easily spot and capture these little animals when they get the opportunity.
Why do cats catch moles?
Cats target moles as prey for many reasons, some of which are explained below.
1. Moles are easy to notice
Cats can easily notice the presence of moles in the ground where they dig their tunnels. Dirt that has been pushed upward can catch a feline’s attention, and an intrigued cat will normally approach the dug ground to investigate and possibly catch the culprit.
2. Moles are slow
While moles are excellent diggers, unfortunately they are not very fast runners. These mammals move quite slowly because their back feet are too small and designed only to support their bodies’ movement. Their front legs might appear bigger, but this is only for the purposes of digging; not for running. So, once they show up on the surface, most cats can catch them pretty effortlessly.
3. Moles have poor vision
While it might appear that moles are blind, these small animals can, in fact, see. However, they are generally color-blind and can only recognize light and movement. Moles rely on their sensitive sense of smell and touch to navigate the underground in search of food. Unfortunately, their poor vision will make it difficult for them to avoid an approaching cat.
4. Moles are a good source of meat
Cats are carnivores and, as such, they might find smaller animals – including moles – a good source of protein. Any hungry cat is sure to find a mole an irresistible and tasty snack.
5. Moles are easy prey
Moles do not have the capability to escape quickly or fight back against a bigger predator like a cat. This makes them an easy target, unlike other smaller animals that are excellent at running and hiding. Perhaps their only chance to stay safe from a cat’s sharp claws is to remain unnoticed underground.
How do cats hunt moles?
Thanks to their keen eyesight, sense of smell, and whiskers, cats can easily spot the activities of potential prey.
While moles can be easily captured once they are out in the open, it can be a great challenge to catch them underground. Nevertheless, cats will easily perceive their presence and will likely investigate an unfamiliar molehill. Near the dug ground, they will lie in wait for the unsuspecting mole to emerge, and then grab the poor creature quickly out of its hiding place.
Do cats eat moles?
Ferals and stray cats will likely find moles a good food source since these felines hunt specifically for survival. However, this might not be the case for domestic cats.
Cats that are well-provided with food and shelter may not be interested in eating their catch. In most cases, hunting moles is just part of their daily play. In fact, domesticated cats actually maximize their enjoyment by releasing and re-catching their prey, and only killing it once they have had enough of it. Sometimes, the half-dead prey might be given as a gift to their human or used by a mother cat to teach her kittens to hunt.
Other cats might also occasionally eat moles, not because they are hungry but to satisfy their predatory instinct. For them, the prey is similar to a reward, just like receiving treats after a play session.
Are moles poisonous to cats?
One thing that worries a lot of fur parents is the safety aspect of their cats eating moles. Fortunately, moles are not poisonous to cats and should not cause you serious concern. Moles are generally insectivores, meaning that their diet only includes worms and insects.
Perhaps the only danger of eating moles is the potential parasites they carry, such as ticks, fleas, and tapeworms. If you suspect your cat has eaten a mole and she suddenly starts acting strange, do not delay a visit to your vet.
While there is nothing much we can do to stop a cat’s hunting instinct, you should definitely protect your pet from the dangers of consuming random animals. As mentioned, moles can carry parasites that might harm your furry friends, so keep a close eye on them and pamper them with toys to satisfy their hunting desires.
Moles are generally considered prey by cats because they are small, easy to catch, and trigger curiosity in our whiskered friends. Some cats might also eat moles as a source of nourishment, especially ferals and stray cats.
Well-fed cats might catch moles only to satisfy their predatory instincts. Or, they might bring their spoils home as a gift. Know that these feline behaviors are perfectly normal, and you should never punish a cat for expressing its natural instincts.
Image: istockphoto.com / Ralf Blechschmidt